It’s been days since the previously scheduled election date. Unlike the initial uproar and threats the postponement brought, the day passed by like any other day. Many Nigerians quickly settled into the thrills, frills and romance that Valentine’s Day brought. In the course of last week, the INEC Chairman was on National TV – before the National Assembly – to defend the commission’s decision to postpone the election and to also give a brief on their level of preparedness for the coming election. In his presentation, the Chairman, reeled out statistics for PVC collection, declaring that about 75.94% of registered voters have been able to collect their PVCs.
For any student sitting for an examination that figure would easily have passed for a distinction for which he/she would always be proud of. However, as it concerns the matter of election preparedness, this number is at best an abysmal performance for the electoral body.
In 2011, when INEC, newly under the leadership of the current chairman (Professor Attahiru Jega) announced the need for voters to get registered to be able to vote, not many people stayed back. Nationwide, large turn-outs of Nigerians were recorded at the many registration points, as people remained defying the scorching sun, endured the failing direct data capture (DDC) machines and endless queues, to get themselves registered. To think that four years after that exercise, about 25% of the registered voters are still yet to collect their Permanent Voters’ Card, remains an anomaly.
While taking a ride with a new acquaintance of mine, he expressed his inability to collect his voters’ card, simply because he registered for the elections in a far-flung state during his NYSC. For all the enthusiasm he had for the coming elections, he is indeed concerned about his current dis-enfranchisement, wondering how many other people were in his shoes. This perhaps best describes the predicament that many Nigerian voters have found themselves. The current state of our electoral system has made it such that anyone who for one reason or the other has had to migrate from their previous location of voter registration was almost automatically dis-enfranchised from voting.
Think of the many individuals who registered in their various campuses as undergraduates at that time, and who have now graduated and moved further away from their previous locations, or perhaps the case of other people who may have relocated because of their jobs, families, or even the insurgency in the North. Although INEC has tried to solve this problem by trying out a system which allows voters transfer their PVCs, not much has been seen regarding its effectiveness. In a situation where it’s effective and PVCs are successfully transferred, would a voter who registered in Agege, be able to vote in Asokoro?
Truth be told, I remain a firm believer in the current INEC Chairman, as I have no doubts in his desire to ensure a free, fair and hitch-free elections. I am however concerned about the possible risk of dis-enfranchisement that a vast majority of the population currently faces.
I look forward to a time when issues like PVC collection would no longer be rocket science for us. I look forward to an electoral system in which a voter registered in Ughelli can go on to cast his vote in Isale-Eko. Ultimately, how nice would it be for Nigerians in the diaspora to be a part of this process.
Perhaps that’s the future… God take us there.